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Published: Tuesday, 10/26/2010

Sylvania Twp. trustees shift police-levy rollback but keep another tax break

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Township trustees voted last week to shift a rollback of the police levies to an older tax, effectively reinstating about $400,000 in annual revenue the township had forsaken for two years but continuing a modest tax break.

The continuing, but reduced, tax rollback passed despite objections from trustee Kevin Haddad, who worried that sacrificing revenue could put the police department in financial trouble in the future.

"I won't approve any more levies if we have to ask for more money down the road," he said.

Suspending the 1.5-mill permanent police levy that township voters approved in 1984 will cost the township about $660,000 next year, but that's less than the $1.06 million the previous board of trustees waived a year ago when it voted to continue a rollback of a 1.5-mill levy passed in 1998.

Although it was the same nominal rate, the 1998 levy brought in more in revenue because it was based on higher real-estate values than those 14 years earlier. Rolling back the 1984 levy instead of 1998's means the owner of a $100,000 house will get a property-tax reduction of about $20 instead of about $32.

One mill equals $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value, but property is not assessed at full market value. Sylvania city, which has its own police force, does not pay the township police tax as it does the fire levy. The township fire department serves the city as well as the township.

Trustees first rolled back the police levy for 2008, when the 1984 levy was suspended for the year. The board cited a $3 million cash reserve in the police account, far more than trustees believed was necessary. The following year, the board switched to the newer levy, and last fall it continued the rollback for the current tax year.

Jim Beck, township director of accounting and budgeting, told the trustees last week that if the 1998 levy remained suspended, the police surplus would run out in 2013, while rolling back the 1984 levy instead would exhaust the cash reserve in 2015.

If the township were to return to collecting both levies, he said, the police account would remain in the black through 2018 and beyond, with 2018 being the latest year for which he had calculated a forecast.

Carol Contrada, the trustees' chairman, remarked that when the 1998 levy was passed, officials expected to go back to township voters in about five years to seek more money for the police department, so going more than 10 years without a new levy request, much less providing a rollback, "is a remarkable achievement."

Mrs. Contrada, the only holdover from the board of trustees that approved the previous rollbacks, favored switching the rollback to the older levy to give township officials more "decision-making" room, as did trustee John Jennewine.

"Considering the economy, I would like to roll back something," Mr. Jennewine said before the vote. Suspending the 1984 levy, he said, is "not as big a relief to our residents, but it's something."

Mr. Haddad reiterated his objection to the rollback later in the week, saying he believed the police department could use a full restoration of levy revenue to pay for new cruisers and other upgrades.

In other business during the meeting, township trustees briefly discussed the proposal to contract for townshipwide refuse collection and recycling.

Mr. Haddad reported that, based on objections voiced at several recent public hearings, he looked into the possibility of offering such service on an opt-out basis and believes it would work. He also predicted that many of those who protested having collection service forced upon them probably would sign up because it would be cheaper.

Township officials expect to draft legislation to establish a single trash-collection day, so that companies serving anyone opting out of a township-arranged service would all have to make their runs on the same day. Along with reducing cost and the number of garbage-truck trips on township roads, Mr. Haddad has cited the unsightliness of trash cans set out throughout the week as an advantage of township-arranged refuse collection.

Any firm hired by the township would continue to bill residents individually. Those whose contracts extend past the date any such collection began would be entitled to refunds for unused portions of contracts.



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